I'm So Dizzy,
My head is spinning!!
A Russian professor at an Ohio university has applied to patent a method for snuffing out hurricanes by flying jet fighters around the eye of the storm at supersonic speeds. Professor Arkadii Leonov and his collaborator Atanas Gagov, both of Akron Uni, actually filed their patent application "Hurricane Suppression by …
Couldn't they attach extra tanks to the wings where the (presumably unused) missiles would be sat normally?
Alternatively, couldn't they fire a barrage of explosives into the hurricane, detonating them throughout its volume, disrupting its flow of air and doing the same sort of thing?
Or construct a supersonic jet / UAV designed to do this? Given the cost of hurricane damage somewhere like the Gulf of Mexico this could actually be financially viable in some locations.
I'll assume that a large aircraft capable of the necessary fuel loads and speeds would do.
Time to de-mothball those Concordes, just so long as they don't make a habit of spectacularly burning fuel. And then crashing. Or perhaps we could ask the Russians to dust off some TSR-2 plan copies for us. We won't have any.
Paris? Her legs operate on the swing wing model.
given my limited understanding of angular momentum, the fact the jets would need to fly in a circle would mean they need to be undergoing constant acceleration - thus burning even more fuel than standard supersonic "cruise", ie, in a straight line.
I'm skeptical though as I'm pretty sure this would already have been thought of, it's not rocket science ;)
Can any El Reg readers out there confirm whether nor not hurricanes are part of the natural cycle of things, and therefore, despite carnage on the ground, are a force for good? If so, then surely we should leave them alone. If American houses were constructed to the same level of the bricks and mortar buildings here in the rugged UK, perhaps they would suffer less damage? Most of the buildings damaged beyond repair in the States when hurricanes hit appear to be wooden, metal paneled or mobile homes. Brick / concrete buildings appear to remain standing - even in the strongest hurricanes. Modern day early warning systems appear to work wonders too. I vote, leave nature alone and apply some human common sense instead.
And all the energy in the hurricane, where does that go then ? That wind has gotta blow somewhere. Even if it works, this plan will just disperse the storm, not snuff it out. Destruction to life and property might not be lessened.
Bring it on, though, if it gets Concordski whirling around.
I do think that there is a fighter which can do this at present even for the few that can go supersonic without jetisonning the extra fuel tanks.
There is however a number of bombers (old and new) that can perform this task with flying colours: the now retired everywhere but RAAF F111, the old Tu-22, Tu-22M should all be able to do this. They have both the endurance and the turn radius to remain within the storm eye and follow the suggested trajectory.
So if the idea has some merit, the kit to test it probably be made available. Now that is one form of Russian-Venezuelan and Russian-Cuban military cooperation that will be entertaining to watch (and the Americans pulling their hair for retiring all F111 prematurely).
"It's all very odd"
You ain't just whistlin' Dixie there Bubba !
So the US patent office may possibly grant a patent, not for a device, not even for a set of software instructions but..... an aircraft navigational route ?
Also, why did they give a 1950's aircraft as an example?
I can see a boom snuffing out a candle, but a hurricane?
From the paper mentioned in an earlier comment here,
"All that energy that is in the warm ocean waters that dynamically needs to be released (by a hurricane) would still be there in the ocean, so eliminating most of the larger hurricanes might result in hordes of "little" cyclones/hurricanes/waterspouts, or it might result in the occasional one that escaped "treatment" becoming a humdinger!"
Admittedly, report credibility was rather shaken by the term "humdinger" but nothing a supersonic fly-by couldn't straighten out ;o)
I would have thought that the kinetic energy in a hurricane, which the jets would have to nullify , is astronomical. It would probably require thousands of jet fighters in a synchronised fomation, unless a couple of planes could somehow create some kind of 'stalling' effect that is self-sustaining. Difficult to imagine how that would work, but then fluid mechanics is not my strong point ...
Actually this idea can be tried out very easily! The USAF has Tyndell air force base in Florida that operates retired F-4 Phantoms (the same aircraft mentioned in the patent) as QF-4 unmanned target drones. I'm no meteorologist but doesn't Florida get a few squalls every now and then? Perhaps the unmanned QF-4s can be used to test the supersonic anti-storm theory, they are only going to get shot down anyway and there are no pilots onboard...
Forget Concorde. Vulcan's are more suited (and booted!)
Ever been behind one of them on the ground when it accelerated?
The noise'd scare the shi*t out of titchy little storms like Katrina. Almost knocked me off my feet. I was practically deaf for ½ a day. 'Course, it's a "Cold War plane" so I dunno if the Ruskies could use it to test their theory.
For anyone (like myself) who has collaborated with Russian academics, you'll find the lessor capable ones all think their ideas, no matter how good or bad, are of huge value and need protection because everyone wants to steal their ideas. The top notch Russian academics also have huge egos, but tend to be vastly more open.
"Of course, larger or smaller hurricanes/typhoons may necessitate the need for more or less supersonic capable aircraft."
So something subsonic would do for the small storms?
They probably meant "more or fewer supersonic capable aircraft."
Mine's the one with the "P" on the back.
Your average hurricane generates vast amounts of energy, the wind energy alone could be as much as half of the electrical generating capacity of the planet (http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/D7.html).
Even if this system is in some kind of dynamic equilibrium it seems inconcievable that the energy generated by two supersonic jets could destabilise it to the point that it dissipates. A useful analogy might be a 1000 ton boulder sitting at the top of a hill that would need to rocked by a few degrees to make it roll down the hill and then suggesting that one person (sans lever, bulldozer, explosives, etc.) could achieve this. Total bollocks!
As said above: cod science for a bit of cheap publicity and possibly a night on whatever the local moonshine is in Ohio.
"turning such a tight circle at supersonic speeds? what about stress on the airframe and pilot?!"
To be fair, the radius would be rather large, so I don't think the turning at supersonic speeds itself would be bad for the airframe, any more than a typical supersonic turn would be.
That being said, there is such a thing as "manuevering speed" for aircraft. The first thing anyone is told who accidentally (or purposely) penetrates a thunderstorm is to slow to (or below) maneuvering speed so that the turbulence won't tear the plane apart. I don't know much about the design of fighter jets, but I would think that even they would be susceptible to being torn apart due to turbulence flying at supersonic speeds in a hurricane.
And on an unrelated note, I notice some commenters mention "tornado". A hurricane/cyclone is not the same as a tornado.
Wouldn't adding the extra air and causing all those air waves to collide with eachother result in a lot of friction and thus heat? That's where your energy will be going. That and random bursts of wind going out from the center of the hurricane, I suppose, which wouldn't be that big a deal because the whole point is to pull this kind of stunt before the hurricane gets a chance to ruin anyone's life.
As for withstanding the hurricane itself, most jet engines (esp. modern ones) can suck in copious amounts of water and still run just fine. Salt water would screw the turbines up sooner or later so you may have to replace them more often, but any jet capable of pulling a 9+g turn without falling to pieces should have no problems whatsoever with a bit of inclement weather.
Anybody with even a layman's knowledge of aerodynamics (which about summarizes mine) knows that, when things are going very, very fast, a couple of conditions apply:
1) A little turbulence at subsonic speed == brick wall at supersonic speed. In case no one has noticed, hurricane == turbulence.
2) Things in the air at subsonic speed == bricks at supersonic speed. This can include ice pellets.
Who wants to pilot these puppies? I don't think that it's so easy to recruit kamikaze pilots these days.
The first problem would seem to be one of energy. A jet fighter, even a supersonic one, has tremendously less energy than a hurricane. Second, I'm not sure how much of the plane's shock wave will be converted into countervailing spin. Assuming (as the article says) that it's shaped like a cone, I would imagine that near the aircraft the boom will be most disruptive, but as the distance increases this "coherent" wave will be subject to torsional forces creating eddies normal to the direction of the wave. These should soon lose any coherence as the perfectly flat, near-vertical eddies are ripped apart and subsumed into the prevailing horizontal vortex (ie, the hurricane will eat up the eddies, nothing to see here, etc.). I don't know if the inventor has done the maths, and neither have I, but I suspect that he's neglected the third dimension entirely in his imagining, which is kind of inexcusable.
Nice article, el Reg. Nothing like a bit of hypothetical fluid dynamics in the afternoon to exercise the grey matter.
"another flaw? ... turning such a tight circle at supersonic speeds? what about stress on the airframe and pilot?!" .... By Yorkshirepudding Posted Wednesday 3rd December 2008 13:49 GMT
A Pilotless Drone Suffers No Pain, which is the Beauty of Remote Control.
"The top notch Russian academics also have huge egos, but tend to be vastly more open." ..... By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 3rd December 2008 14:39 GMT
Which is an Intoxicating Transparent Honesty, AC, much Admired in Top Notch Circles.
This Time the Visiting of Minds is much more Engaging ..... Entangling of the System Meltdown Polemic. Something those knock out Ukrainian girls know more than just a little about.
> given my limited understanding of angular momentum, the fact the jets would need to fly in a circle would mean they need to be undergoing constant acceleration
Yep. I can't remember the formula off the top of my head, but essentially there's not much difference between flying in a straight line and flying in a circle... at least qualitatively. When flying in a straight line we have F=ma. The F is provided by the thruster, but not all of that thrust is converted into actual acceleration of the aircraft because of air resistance. So, yes, you're right that it'll need more thrust (force) but it won't mean the aircraft is accelerating. But I guess you knew that and I'm just making a point on semantics. You're right as well to say that extra thrust is needed to keep flying in a circle, and this constant finagling factor translates into extra fuel use and extra stress on the airframe.
If you still believe in experiment and observation, that is.
Apparatus: 1 car, 1 cyclist c/w bicycle, 1 fly (real or artificial - not virtual), 2 stands for car, 1 for bicycle, 1 whip.
Method: Jack up car's driving wheels onto supports. Place bicycle adjacent a driving wheel with rear wheel on stand. Attach fly to rear bicycle wheel. Start car. Operate bicycle rider (whip may be effective) so that rear wheel rotates in opposing direction. Observe motion of car wheel. If the hypothesis is correct, the car wheel should stop before the petrol runs out.
Cost: est 2 professors' annual salaries (not including patent fees). Burial expenses for cyclist.
Rationale: a sight cheaper than cutting off Florida and part of Lousiana, making it float, and towing it at around the Carribean at 30mph.
Alternatives: there is no alternative until boffins realize the role of electricity in atmospheric dynamics, AND get cause and effect the correct way around.
A hurricane is a dynamic unstable system (in fact a positive feedback loop). Disrupt the system enough and the self sustaining hurricane will disperse.
Hurricanes are effectively large vertical heat engines with warm moist air in the walls rising and cool dry air descending in the eye. This is why hurricanes lose power as they pass over land, they no longer have a source of warm moist air (ie the ocean). So if you can disrupt the stability of the interface between the warm and cool air at the boundary of the eye you could theoretically cause the storm to disperse.
This is where using a sonic boom comes in, you could theoretically destabilise the interface with a sonic boom. This might lead to the complete collapse of the boundary and thus the dispersal of the storm. The total power of the sonic boom is small compared to the power of the storm, but large amounts of power are not necessary.
As to where the energy goes well you will likely get more small storms in place of fewer large ones. Hurricanes only form in quite specific circumstances so once disrupted one is unlike to reform in the same place.
Some people have commented on the planes having to fly tight circles. I would have thought the problem was more to do with the fact that they are big circles. The diagram shows the planes flying five circuits of around 1800km each. That's not far short of 6000 miles, not counting the distance flown to get into position and get home again. Which is a hell of a long way for a plane to fly at supersonic speeds, certainly it's outside Concorde's range.
Then there's the matter of the turbulence. The interface between the calm air and moving air at the edge of the eye is extraordinarilly turbulent. I wouldn't have thought any plane currently use or production is designed to put up with that sort of turbulence at supersonic speeds.
Getting into position won't be a walk in the park either. Presumably the planes will have to fly into the eye. If they were already in the eye on the ground then it would be a bit late to deal with the hurricane. Can these planes cope with being flown through a hurricane? Or would the master of any carrier consider sailing throught a hurricane to get to the eye?
On the subject of turbulence, flying in that sort of turbulence would probably increase drag reducing speed and more importantly increasing fuel consumption.
I'm not saying it wouldn't work, I don't understand the theory. However I do think that it would take planes specifically designed for the job which would cost huge amounts of money to develop. It's very unlikely that anybody would spend the massive sums involved with nothing more than an unproven theory to go on.
So all things considered the patent seems to be totally pointless.
What does it mean, if someone in the US (like, the government for example) wants to save thousands of lives by using this technique, they will have to license it? How much will they have to pay?
Frecking brilliant. Someone in the patent application office needs to be take in the backyard and shot. Make it everyone actually. This country never stops amazing me.
Untried, unproven, unpatentable. Stupid.
Hurricanes work by the heat exchange going on in the "wall" around the eye, and are powered by hot damp air dumping energy by condensation at altitude. This is why hurricanes die quickly once they come ashore. When the eye is over dry land, no more warm, wet water to keep it going.
Junk out this worse-than-daft Circling Supersonic Plane Plan and replace it with...Towed Arrays Of Dehumidifiers (TAOD)!
Yes there are a few details to be worked out, the development of decent casters that will withstand take-off and landing, the manufacture of thousand-mile long extension cords, high capacity drip trays and so forth, but at least this plan stands a ghost of a chance of actually stopping these majestic windy whilrygigs of destruction.
Sadly, the TAOD will be of no use whatsoever against the trailer-park devastating Tornado, the Scourge of the Midwest, which I believe some here have confused with the Mighty Hurricane.
That was a bogie on the computer printout - not a decimal point!
Two supersonic jets have less than a billionth the power of a hurricane - I cant even be bothered to work it out.
They'd need to fly round the eyewall - thats 10,000m high and sometimes 200 miles across and the shockwave is maybe 10' thick and travelling at the speed of sound - and guess what? It cools down straight away.
About as effective as a fart in a hurricane but without the hurricane to take the smell away.
Got an icon of a (looks a bit like) a waving hand?
I think the same. I remember something about hurricanes being a natural occurrence to level off pressure and heat differentials. If we had no hurricanes, some heat waves would never go away ... global warming, anyone?
And as some readers have noted, most "home damage" seems to be due to stupid planning; building a wooden house on a hurricane/tornado/earthquake prone area is really, really stupid. It seems like the Three Little Pigs story falls on deaf ears in the US!
as someone who resides in hurricane-prone south Louisiana, I can personally vouch for brick construction. However, that in no way protected my house against the SIXTY FOOT OAK TREE which crashed through the roof and wall.
Bricks and mortar do indeed make for hearty construction, but it's a bit unreasonable to try to build against the possibility of several tons of wind-driven tree.
Roofs are another matter entirely. After the infamous hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina/Rita), when the aforementioned Oak shattered my garage, I got a new roof with fresh asphalt shingles. During this past season, hurricane Gustav (which actually hit my area HARDER than the 2005 storms) only nicked a few shingles whereas my neighbors with older roofs were now facing the necessity of total replacement. A bit hard to brick a roof, yes?
And people complaining about the planes not being up to hurricane winds... Well, the Hurricane Hunters are not going supersonic, but they have been flying into hurricane eyes for decades, and with very old planes too. They even take media people with them sometimes: http://www.hurricanehunters.com/
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Here's an idea: how about setting up some dirigible platform in the eye of the hurricane, then have one or more wind turbines attached to that, slowly move that turbine (and platform) towards the inside eye-wall, and generate lots and lots of free energy?
Sure there are some problems to be ironed out here and there, but I think it's got potential :-)
In all the debunking, one thing also remains to be pointed out:
Accelerating a jet clockwise around the hurricane is accomplished by accelerating the air counter-clockwise. Conservation of momentum and all. And all that energy in creating a sonic boom and heating the fighter would be balanced by the energy of the air accelerated in the opposite direction.
It would have an unnoticable effect for sure, but that miniscule effect would be to accelerate the hurricane.
> Poul Anderson had a similar idea in "Orion Shall Rise" way back in 1983 or thereabouts.
> Although, come to think of it, it's set in the future so it can't be prior art ...
Better yet, I remember reading a story called "Jill the Giant Killer" which proposed pitch bombing tornadoes to disrupt them, back in 1975. Still a wacky idea, but given that they're using bombs, not the planes themselves, and talking about tornadoes instead of hurricanes, probably not quite as wacky.
No doubt it was a silly story, but it had a big effect on me when I was 8 years old, so it's always stuck in my memory.
Here's a cover pic from the magazine I read it in, showing it in action:
I don't give this "patent" a snowball's chance in Hell of ever amounting to anything.
First of all, turbulence in storm clouds is something that actual pilots avoid like the plague. Why ? Because it's dangerous at any speed.
Granted, a hurricane is a rotational system which could be more coherent than a basic storm cumulonimbus, but on the other hand its coherency is its most dangerous attribute.
Even if one does believe that a supersonic fighter plane can fly reliably in hurricane conditions - which I doubt (not built for that) - the sonic boom that can occur will be a drop in the ocean of energy that is surrounding the plane already.
I highly suspect that the so-called "scientists" that have applied for this patent haven't the slightest notion of the amount of energy that exists in the most turbulent nature of a hurricane's eye. The simple idea of "disrupting" this raging chaos is laughable.
For me, the only way to snuff out a hurricane would be the application of a comparable amount of energy in a negative manner.
The total kinetic energy of a hurricane is apparently rated at 1.5 x 10^12 Watts (source : http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/D7.html). The strongest ever sonic boom on record is rated at 144 pounds per square foot. Regular booms these days are rated at around 20 pounds per sq. foot.
A hurricane, like Katrina, "strong and very pronounced rotary circulation, closed isobars, a pressure of 17 or more pounds per square foot and winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) and higher. The devastating class 5 hurricane exceeds wind speed of 156 miles per hour." (source http://www.webcoast.com/environment/hurricanes.htm).
So one might think that 20 ppsf beats 17 ppsf, but one must also take into account that a sonic boom happens in an instant and disappears, whereas the 17 ppsf of a hurricane is a constant.
If you think that a sonic boom can do a hurricane in, then realize that the Hiroshima bomb was rated at 8600 ppsf.
And that was a measly 15 kilotons. Today, we have megaton bombs.
I say we take off and nuke it from orbit. It's the only way.
It's supersonic, has a decent range, and can be fitted with internal fuel tanks as well. No idea how it would perform flying about a storm, though. Or in-flight refuelling would work for smaller jets. If it really works it would be cheaper than the damage resulting from a large storm making landfall over somewhere populated.
Ummm... but here's a thought, what is the consequence of snuffing out a hurricane?
A hurricane is an earth regulating system. That energy is serving a purpose.
We know so little about balances that we'd be better off looking at Hurricanes as magic
not to be tampered with (get out of the path of one as well)
Hurricane abatement is very likely a horrendous idea. Trust the Mother, she
regulates herself as necessary. We are already tinkering with her too much
(HAARP is one example) and I suspect at some point she may have to shake us off of her like a wet dog shaking off water.
Might as well get a load of people to fly kites and everyone pulls the string at the same time. Hurricanes are big and planes are small. If you were to collapse a vortex another one would form due to the megatons of differently heated air moving in different directions. Billy Whizz makes more sense.
Even in the quantum chance this gag of a patent works, how is it sustainable in any manner?
Our economy is falling faster than a lead weight so what, Disney Land/Alton Towers have a new attraction; go supersonic in a big circle? I'll stick to polo's and hula hoops if i'm to "snuff" out anything circular.
Where's all the fuel gonna come from?! I'm tired of invading countries for oil so we can simply move while sat on our butts, we have legs...to run far far away from these things before they even get close.
How have humans existed before this wonderful patent idea came out...
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